Gambia: Victims Revisit Yahya Jammehs Reign Of Terror, Confront APRCs 22-Year Rule

Panelists Reflecting On Tyranny, Celebrating Freedom

On the eve of the anniversary of July 22nd 1994 military coup that plunged Gambia into a two-decade nightmare, long-silent victims of Gambia’s dictatorship braved the rain to gather at Kairaba Beach Hotel, in Kololi, to revisit the horrors they faced. A panel discussion was held on the theme  “The New Gambia: Which Way Forward?”, and provided an opportunity to reflect on tyranny while celebrating freedom and liberty.

Organised by Coalition for Change Gambia (CCG), Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations (GCVHRV) and the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA), the forum was punctuated by poignant testimonies from victims who took the opportunity to unveil Gambia’s dark moments under Yahya Jammeh’s regime while re-echoeing calls for justice to prevail.

GCVHRV’s Ayesha Jammeh whose dad Haruna Jammeh was murdered by the former regime said Gambians are peace loving people. ” As I reflect on the past,I have memories of my father who was a man who will do everything to put a smile on our faces,” she said in an attempt to highlight the years of turmoil and emotional distress her family went through.
As a man of honour and dignity, she added, her father stood up against injustice under Gambia’s long time ruler.

Hailing the efforts deployed by Gambians to regain their liberty, Ayesha said democracy is worth dying for. “All of us wanted to be liberated,” she stated. She reiterated the center’s commitment to make sure that justice will prevail over atrocities committed by the former regime.

Nyang Njie, an inspirational thinker and activist, made it clear that Yahya Jammeh was never Gambia’s problem. “We Gambians are Gambia’s problem. We should not forget what we have done to create a monster called Yahya Jammeh, and try our best not to repeat it,” he warned. Confronting Gambia’s shameless decadency during the past 22 years, Nyang Njie lifted a corner of the veil on how Gambians compromised themselves ‘to the niceties and luxuries of life.’

“This led us to de-humanize our character, to sell our souls to vanity. This is how Yahya Jammeh raped us, brutalized us for 22 years,” he stated. He then deplored the fact that the same faces that destroyed the country are still prevalent in the new Gambia. Transaction has prevailed over transformation, he said. “This is business as usual. We want to transform  this country,” he voiced out. Nyang Njie urged Gambians to desist from living in the past. “Let’s reflect, but also let’s move on.”

Former National Assembly Nominated Member Ramzia Diab seized the opportunity to apologize for serving Jammeh’s repressive regime. She called on authorities to be very patients in enduring criticisms coming towards them. “We’ve shown the world that the ballot is more powerful than the bullet. We’ve also shown the world that Gambians do not deserve tyranny,” she said while taking a critical look at the perilous journey Gambians went through during the past two decades. As the tiny West African nation is at the crossroads, Ramzia Diab, a prominent member of the Coalition that brought change to Gambia, emphasised the need for Gambians to refuse to be stagnant and avoid being locked themselves into Jammeh’s reign of terror.

Bintou Kamara, a communication specialist who once worked with the French Red Cross to provide urgently needed assistance to African migrants reaching the European shores, unveiled the realities young Gambians are confronted with on their journey to Europe. She narrated an insightful anecdote of a young Gambian who lost his asylum case in court, but has the resolve to tell the judge that he is no more interested in staying in Europe.
The young man’s move, she said, was prompted by the advent of a new democratic dispensation, heralding an era of great hope for Gambians.

National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul South Fatoumata Njie reminded the gathering that Gambians never voted for king or dictator. ” They voted for change,” she indicated. Hon. Fatoumata Njie said we are all victims of the Jammeh regime. “We have faith in the  Barrow administration.” She called for constitutional review in order to make the change Gambians voted for a reality.

In fine, journalist Frederick Tendeng called on media practitioners to open their mind to the sense of duty and responsibility. He then added that since the change of regime journalists are yet to fulfill their duty to inform properly. “It is yet to be done,” he stressed. He reminded journalists to hold government and decision makers accountable. He drew the attention of the audience about new trends the media environment is going through: business tycoons and politicians taking over media houses at the expense of the right to know.

Written Abdoulie JOHN